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Written Answers

Thursday 23 November 2006

Crime: Rape

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Guidance for the police on investigating serious sexual offences, including rape, published by the National Centre for Policing Excellence in 2005, sets out the principles for investigative interviewing, including the use of bad character evidence where the suspect has a propensity to be untruthful. The guidance also advises officers to work on the premise that victim reports are accurate unless the victim informs them otherwise or unless an officer uncovers information that contradicts the victim's account. Where there is evidence that a complaint is false, the CPS should consider whether the person who made the allegation should be charged with wasting police time or perverting the course of justice.

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: It is a matter for the chief officer of police for the force area concerned to ensure that police officers and police staff comply with relevant statutory provisions. The status given to evidence gathered during an investigation is a matter for the court. The Code of Practice on the Identification of Persons (Code D) is issued under Section 66(1)(b) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE). The code is subject to ongoing review in the light of legislative change, case law and learning from operational practice.

Demonstrations: “Sack Parliament”

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police tells me that approximately 300 demonstrators were present in the Westminster area on 9 October, with over 100 hard-line activists converging on Parliament Square. During the demonstration, there was a concerted push against police lines as part of an attempt to get into the Palace of Westminster through Carriage Gates.

A total of 38 arrests were made and an additional 40 people were reported for offences and will be issued with summons to attend court. The main offences committed were organising or participating in an unauthorised demonstration; breach of the peace; possession of an offensive weapon; and possession of controlled drugs. These cases have not yet reached trial.

The demonstrators did not notify police of their intention to demonstrate as required by the provisions of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.

Demonstrations: Definition

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Sections 132 to 138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 deal with demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament and provide that all such demonstrations must be authorised in advance by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. There is no statutory definition of demonstration. This is a matter for the courts, which will give the word its normal, everyday meaning.

The commissioner may attach conditions to a demonstration for the purpose of preventing hindrance to any person wishing to enter or leave the Palace of Westminster; hindrance to the proper operation of Parliament; serious public disorder; serious damage to property; disruption to the life of the community; a security risk in any part of the designated area; or risk to the safety of members of the public, including those taking part in the demonstration. The senior police officer at the scene may impose additional conditions. All conditions must be necessary and proportionate, taking into account human rights considerations.



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Health: Personal Medical Records

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): I understand from my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health that the common law of confidentiality limits the circumstances in which personal health information can be disclosed without the consent of the patient concerned. Breaches are allowed where there is a mandatory statutory obligation to do so or where an overriding public interest exists. The Department of Health has issued guidance (Confidentiality: NHS Code of Practice), which advises that public interest disclosures should be made only where it is necessary to help to investigate or prevent serious crime, e.g. child abuse, murder or rape. A copy of this guidance is available in the Library.

A number of statutes also impose a duty to disclose personal health information in certain circumstances. The Terrorism Act 2000 (Section 19) places a statutory obligation on health professionals to disclose relevant personal health information where they believe an offence under the Act has been committed. In addition, where information is disclosed to the Serious Organised Crime Agency under the guidance described above, the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (Section 34) exempts disclosure made to the agency from any obligations of confidentiality.

Israel and Palestine: Checkpoints

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): Our embassy in Tel Aviv has frequent contact with members of Checkpoint Watch. We support their work and have assisted with projects in the past. We continue to urge both the Palestinians and the Israelis to honour their agreement on access and movement in the Occupied Territories. We last raised our concerns with the Israeli authorities on 1 November.

Israel and Palestine: Peace Process

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government:



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): The UK believes that an early meeting between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas is desirable and stands ready to offer both parties support. When my right honourable friend the Prime Minister visited Israel and the Occupied Territories from 9 to 11 September, both Prime Minster Olmert and President Abbas agreed to meet each other without conditions and made clear their commitment to a political process.

Israel and Palestine: West Bank

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): The UK has consistently raised with the Government of Israel its opposition to settlements in the Occupied Territories over the past six months. We have continued to call for Israel to implement its commitments under the first phase of the road map, including freezing all settlement activity, and to dismantle settlement outposts established since March 2001. We most recently raised this issue with the Israeli authorities on 15 November.

Sport: National Debate

Lord Luke asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: Work to develop a new strategy for physical activity and fitness is being taking forward across government by the Inter-Ministerial Group on Physical Activity. The group is chaired by Caroline Flint, Public Health Minister, and reports to both the Secretary of State for Health and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

Lord Luke asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: The department's interests in this debate will be represented by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. However, Richard Caborn as Minister for Sport will also have a key role to play in any national debate on sport and fitness.



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Sudan: UN Resolutions

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): The Government were at the forefront of the international campaign to persuade the Government of Sudan to fully implement UN Security Council Resolution 1706. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and I raised the matter repeatedly with foreign counterparts, and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development travelled to Khartoum on 16 October to press President Bashir in person. However, the Sudanese Government have remained obdurate.

In order to break the political impasse, the UN and the African Union (AU) brokered an agreement on a viable alternative between the international community and the Government of Sudan. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development attended this meeting for the UK. The agreement provides for a renewed ceasefire; more and better-resourced troops on the ground, reporting jointly to the UN and AU; and a renewed political process. The Sudanese Government now need to show their commitment to peace by accepting this agreement.

The UK will keep up the pressure on the Government of Sudan to implement the commitments that they have made and to agree the outstanding issues of exact troop numbers and reporting lines for the mission. We are encouraging other Governments to do the same.

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Triesman: General Salah Abdallah Gosh applied to visit the UK for urgent medical treatment on two separate occasions. He was granted single-entry visas to travel in March and August this year. While he was here, UK officials took the opportunity to raise the issue of Darfur with him. He is an influential member of the Sudanese Government and it therefore makes sense to raise matters of concern with him. At present he is not subject to any UN or EU sanctions or travel restrictions.



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Meetings between US and Sudanese officials are a matter for the US and Sudanese Governments.

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Triesman: Some progress has been made on implementing the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA). However, implementation needs to be accelerated. We are pressing both sides to overcome the main obstacles to this, including resolution of the Abyei boundary and the oil commission.

Any progress on the CPA risks being unravelled by the ongoing crisis in Darfur. There have been far too many unfulfilled promises from all sides to the Darfur conflict. The international community cannot stand by and allow this appalling situation to continue.

The UK has been at the forefront of efforts to help to find a lasting solution to the Darfur crisis. This will be achieved only through a political process to which all sides are committed. We welcome the agreement reached in Addis Ababa on 16 November. This will allow for more and better-resourced peacekeeping troops on the ground and for a renewed political process for Darfur.

We will keep up the pressure on the Government of Sudan and the rebel movements to fulfil their commitments on Darfur. We will also continue to press the Government of Sudan to speed up implementation of the CPA and the eastern Sudan peace agreement for the rest of Sudan. These political processes offer the best hope for peace across Sudan.

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Triesman: It is unacceptable that the Government of Sudan have not done more to carry out their obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolution (SCR) 1556, which was passed in July 2004, and subsequent SCRs to disarm the Janjaweed. The disarmament of the Janjaweed became a key part of the security arrangements contained in the Darfur peace agreement (DPA), which the Government of Sudan signed in May this year. However, the Government of Sudan have failed to honour their commitment. Together with our international partners, we have raised the issue repeatedly with the Sudanese Government and at the joint commission, the body responsible for

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overseeing implementation of the security arrangements set out in the DPA. We will continue to do so until the Government of Sudan take their obligations seriously.

Sudan: Women

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): Women in Darfur are highly vulnerable to sexual attack in and around camps for internally displaced people (IDPs). This is totally unacceptable. We have supported the African Union in providing patrols for women leaving the IDP camps in search of firewood and have urged it to resume these patrols when they have been cut.

The Darfur peace agreement (DPA) calls for Government of Sudan police and the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) police to work together to investigate all crimes against women, with specialist gender units and women police personnel. We have made it absolutely clear to the Government of Sudan that they must accept and implement the agreement and work with AMIS to protect civilians.


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